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Optimize Melatonin and Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / khongkitwiriyachan Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / khongkitwiriyachan

Optimize Melatonin and Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Research indicates that low levels of melatonin are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. In this article, I will share with you the role that melatonin plays, as well as 10 tips to optimize melatonin production, so you can get a better night’s sleep and reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Melatonin Is A Natural Hormone

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain, best known for its function with our sleep/waking cycles.  Light inhibits the production of melatonin in your brain and alters your natural rhythms (called Circadian rhythms). 

Way back in 1976, a research project called the Nurse’s Health Study followed 121,701 female nurses for a number of years. Among other health issues, the study found that nurses who worked night shifts had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer. Since then, other studies have found a relationship between lack of sleep, melatonin and breast cancer.

One 2008 Japanese study found that  women who sleep less than 6 hours per day had an increased risk for breast cancer.

How Melatonin Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

There are proposed to be three mechanisms of action by melatonin that reduce the risk of breast cancer:

  1. There are cells throughout your body (even cancer cells) that have melatonin receptors and melatonin has a calming effect on several reproductive hormones, including estrogen. When melatonin circulates during the night, cell division slows. When melatonin connects with a breast cancer cell, it counteracts estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth.
  2. Melatonin boosts your production of interleukin-2 (an immune-stimulating substance), which helps identify and attack the mutated cells that lead to cancer.
  3. Melatonin reduces aromatase activity (aromatase is the enzyme involved with the synthesis of estrogen from precursor hormones).

In addition, melatonin has quite a variety of other useful actions in the body.  It is a potent antioxidant, it helps activate the immune system.  What it does for cancer is even more impressive.  It induces apoptosis (the process of programmed cell death, lacking in cancer cells), it inhibits the ability of cancer cells to metastasize (spread), it disrupts angiogenesis (the ability of a tumor to create new blood vessels and thus a way to feed itself), it stimulates cell differentiation (also a bad thing for cancer cells), it can even boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy, as well as decreasing its toxic side effects.

Pretty amazing little hormone, really.  So it sounds – initially – like it would be a good supplement to take, doesn’t it?  It’s not that easy, however.  There are some other things about melatonin that you need to know.

For an excellent presentation about melatonin, here is a 12-minute talk given by Dr Russel J Reiter at the University of Texas titled Melatonin’s Role In Cancer Prevention:

The Problem With Melatonin Supplementation

Frequent melatonin use, especially in the typical dosage of 3-6 mg, can trigger a somewhat vicious cycle in your brain.  It is, after all, a hormone, not a vitamin, herb or mineral.  If you supplement with melatonin regularly to get to sleep or for breast cancer risk reduction purposes, your body will produce even less, creating an even greater need for the hormone.  And melatonin supplementation can come with side effects such as next-day grogginess, headaches, dizziness, irritability, vivid dreams and nightmares.

Also, according to research conducted at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin for it to be effective is 0.3 – 1.0 mg.  Many commercially available forms of melatonin are 3-10 times the amount your body would need.

Another complicating factor is how the supplement is prepared.  According to WebMD.com, you should only take the synthetic form of melatonin because the natural form comes from ground-up cow pineal glands and it may spread disease (who needs Mad Cow?).

Melatonin supplementation is helpful when you are suffering jet lag from moving swiftly through time zones – for short periods – and it’s useful for short periods of insomnia. Other than that, you are much better off optimizing your own body’s production of melatonin.

Here are the 10 best ways to do that.

10 Tips to Optimize Your Own Melatonin Production

  1. Darken Your Bedroom – Make sure your sleeping area or bedroom is totally dark, because even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin. Even that glow from your alarm clock can interfere with your sleep.  I use one of those battery operated alarms that you have to push to illuminate.  You might want to invest in blackout shades for the windows, or just wear a comfortable eye mask.
  2. Reduce EMFs in Your Bedroom – Refer to my article EMF Dangers and 7 Tips To Help You Avoid Exposure  and reduce the EMFs in your bedroom.  At first glance, the list of suggestions might be overwhelming, but don’t tackle them all on one day.  Start with the easy ones and then work your way through the list a little at a time. 
  3. Avoid Using Computer, Smart Phone and Television an Hour Before Bed – Between 9-10 pm is when your brain normally starts secreting melatonin so for optimal melatonin release, you need to avoid using your computer, smart phone or television at least an hour or so before going to bedIt’s a bad habit we’ve gotten into and these devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daytime. The blue light interferes with your brain’s ability to produce melatonin.
  4. Get Sunlight in the Morning – Help your system to reset itself by getting 10-15 minutes of sunlight (if possible) first thing in the morning.  This sends a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, and that makes it less likely to be confused by weaker lights during the night.
  5. Get a Dose of Daily Sunlight – Whenever possible, try to get exposure to sunlight regularly each day.  It’s interesting how the pineal gland works – melatonin production is affected by the contrast of bright sunlight and complete darkness – so if you are in darkness all day long (think of coal miners), your pineal gland can’t distinguish the difference and will not optimize production of melatonin.
  6. Shower or Bathe Before Bed – Taking a hot bath or shower about 1-1/2 to 2 hrs before bed helps to increase your core body temperature, and when you get out it drops quickly.  This helps to signal that your body is ready for sleep.
  7. Use a Salt Lamp in Bedroom – If you need a source of light in the night (for instance for getting to the bathroom without tripping over the snoring animals) use a salt lamp.  Dr Reiter’s video discusses why these work best, but to explain briefly, light of this color and bandwidth (similar to a campfire) does not shut down production of melatonin in the same way that white/blue light does.
  8. Keep Bedroom Temperature Low – between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit or 16- 20 degrees Celsius is best.
  9. Establish a Bedtime Routine – The nervous system is much calmed by meditation, deep breathing, using essential oils (lavender is very calming) or receiving a massage from your partner.  Find a routine that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night because the body loves and responds to a calming routine.
  10. Eat a High Protein Snack Several Hours Before Bed.  The L-tryptophan derived from the protein helps your brain produce melatonin and serotonin.


Sleep Duration and the Risk of Breast Cancer: the Ohsaki Cohort Study

Melatonin Modulates Aromatase Activity and Expression in Endothelial Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23450505

Basic Mechanisms Involved in the Anti-Cancer Effects of Melatonin –

Melatonin Overview – http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview#1

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach).  

Reduce Breast Cancer – Avoid Unnecessary Medical Imaging and HRT (And How To Do That)

reduce breast cancer avoid unnecessary medical imaging and hrt
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and renjith krishnan

Today I’m making an attempt to catch up (ha ha! as if!) on the stack of articles and medical research that has been piling up in my office and came across something interesting that I thought you’d want to know about.

It appears that the Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation recently requested the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer.  Here’s a link to the full report.

I found it somewhat unbelievable that things such as phthalates, bisphenol A, industrial chemicals such as benzene, ethylene oxide, or pesticides like DDT could not be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, but I will be avoiding them anyway, and I think you should too.  The IOM did acknowledge that more research into these areas was required.  Amen to that.

The Two Environmental Factors Most Strongly Associated With Increased Breast Cancer Risk

The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the two environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were:

  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation; and
  2. Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (which will be covered in a follow-up article).

The IOM’s conclusion that there was a direct connection between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a great many other bodies of research which indicate that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography (CT-scans) will increase the risk of cancer.

75 Million CT Scans Performed Annually In The U.S.

The use of CT scans has increased nearly 5-fold over the last 2 decades – did you know that 75 million CT scans are performed every year in the United States alone?  SEVENTY-FIVE MILLION!  According to the IOM report, “Thought leaders in radiology are often quoted as estimating that 30% or more of advanced imaging tests may be unnecessary.”  You think?

The reasons for overuse are many:

  • the ease of conducting the exam;
  • the clear diagnostic images made possible;
  • strong financial incentives, reflected by the growing ownership of CT scanners by non-radiologists for use in their private medical offices;
  • strong patient demand, resulting partly from advertisements that do not mention adverse effects;
  • medical malpractice concerns which lead to defensive test ordering.


What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk from Medical Imaging

There are times when CT scans, x-rays and other forms of medical imaging are absolutely crucial, necessary and can be life-saving.  It is important, however, for us to enter into a dialogue with our doctors when making decisions about medical imaging.  You have every right to insist on the necessity and safety of all radiology scans that you undergo.  Make sure you understand the risks and benefits and ask your doctor to explain those risks and benefits fully before you say yes.

Here 6 Important Questions You Can Ask Your Doctor:

  1. Is this scan absolutely necessary?
  2. Are there alternative tests that could be done?
  3. How can I be assured that the test will be done the safest way possible?
  4. Will information from this scan change the management of my disease?
  5. Can/should I wait until after seeing a specialist before getting the scan?
  6. Is it necessary to do it now?

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing most doctors recommend for determining whether breast cancer has begun in a woman (mammography) is also responsible for increasing her risk?  There is another option!  See my article about thermal imaging.

My next article will cover natural alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement therapy.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Safe Cosmetics: Why We Should Be Buying Organic

What Makeup and Cosmetics are Safe?

Being diagnosed with breast cancer led me into doing vast amounts of research on WHY breast cancer seems to be one of the scourges of modern living.  One in EIGHT women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  I knew there must be a reason for this, beyond what we’re told by modern science.

Part of the research I did took an interesting direction.  Putting aside all of the discussions about toxic environment, stress of modern day living, etc what I discovered is that many of our body products (in fact I’ll go out on a limb here and say MOST body products, especially those in the grocery stores and supermarkets) are toxic as hell.  We shouldn’t be using them!

Chemicals and Cancer

If you look at the list of ingredients in most hair care products, skin care products, deodorants, etc you can’t even pronounce most of the ingredients and many of them have NO business being put into our products. There is a definite link to some of these chemicals and cancer.

I’m sorry if this is turning into a rant, but it’s a personal sore subject for me.  Here are just 3 of the baddies:

Propylene Glycol – used as a skin conditioning agent, it’s strong enough to remove barnacles from boats!  My husband says it’s a constituent of anti-freeze.  What’s it doing in skin care products, especially those for babies?  Are you kidding me?

Paraben preservatives (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethylparaben) – used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products.  What delightful information I discovered about these came from a Professor Philippa Darbre at Reading University in England.  Her research on actual breast tumors discovered that parabens were in every sample.  Parabens have been shown to be able to mimic the action of estrogen, which hormone can drive the growth of human breast tumors.  This research was done in 2004 – why are parabens still being allowed in our body products???

DMDM Hydantoin – this contains formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (causes cancer). Causes allergic, irritant and contact dermatitis, headaches and chronic fatigue. The vapor is extremely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat (mucous membranes).  It has NO business being in our body products.

This is a list of only a FEW of the toxic chemicals in body products being routinely used by women all across the world.  Please stop using any products that have these nasties in them.  Reduce your breast cancer risk.

Want something better for yourself?  I’ve done a lot of research on various companies making safe and organic makeup and cosmetics and I believe there is one that is top notch.  I found MiEssence products when I was living in Australia and they are now available pretty much world wide. I believe you deserve the best, most safe cosmetics, completely free of nasty toxic chemicals. 

If you prefer an American based company, I have found a good one in 100% Pure, their products are pretty divine and absolutely safe.  Click here to see their website:

100 Percent Pure

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.